Marshall Gold Discovery SHP
Narrated by Russ Christoff

At Auburn State Recreation Area, we continued on Highway 49 where dynamic views of the American River were seen below, as we headed for the legendary gold rush town of Coloma, home of Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.

A well-worn path led us to what some have called the “single most important site,” in the western United States.

This is where it all began. On the morning of January 24, 1848, while inspecting the tailrace by Sutter’s Mill, James Marshall spotted some shiny flecks in the water.

He placed them in his hat and hurried to announce his find to the others.

Boys he said, “By God I believe I’ve found a gold mine.”

The excitement of white water rafting along the American River has now taken place of gold panning its shores.

But there are still plenty of visitors that catch a little gold fever, when they visit the park.

Panning instructor Rod gives us some pointers.

PANNING INSTRUCTOR ROD: Fill that pan up with as much weight as you can handle.


PANNING INSTRUCTOR ROD: No, what will be doing is using water to wash the dirt out of here. Washing that dirt away from those ugly rocks.

The gold is in the bottom when you are spinning and shaking it. Everything is down at one end.

Roll it around, lift the back, work it all down here.

RUSS CHRISTOFF: At the park’s shady picnic area, I met with Ranger Roseanne and asked why this park is so significant to world history.

RANGER ROSEANNE: Because on January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold in the tailrace of a lumber mill he had been building here on the banks of the South Fork of the American River.

And as news of this discovery spread, it touched off the largest westward migration in the history of the world.

People came from literally every corner of the world bringing with them wild dreams of wondrous riches to be found in California’s gold fields, and when they got there, these dreams touched off a fever that was unequalled at any other time in history.

RUSS CHRISTOFF: You have many particular sights that are around here. The replica of the mill.

RANGER ROSEANNE: That’s right!

RUSS CHRISTOFF: What else can people find when they get here?

RANGER ROSEANNE: There are countless things; they could easily spend an entire day here in the park. They can go of course to the sawmill, and watch a live demonstration. This is a replica of the original mill that we have here in the park.

On certain days, you can even find the character of James Marshall (actually a volunteer but playing the role very well) demonstrating how the mill works.

You can go along the river and pan for gold.

You can go to any one of over 30 different historic buildings, several of them filled with costumed volunteers that will tell you the history of the town.

You can go the hill over hear, in the saddle there is a trail or you can get to it by road, and to up to see Marshall’s Monument.

He is buried beneath it today, although the monument was constructed in 1890.

There is a beautiful view of the entire valley from up there.

There is the historic Chinese Store over here. There is of course the Gold Discovery Museum.

There are two historic cemeteries. And there are all kinds of historic buildings all along Main Street. So there is plenty for any visitor from any part of the world to become interested in their visit to the park at Coloma.